The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected widespread calls to impose a complete ban on Russia from the forthcoming summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, instead electing to leave it to individual International Federations (IFs) to decide which athletes should be allowed to compete.
The ruling came after a meeting of the IOC’s Executive Board yesterday (Sunday) as officials sought to determine Russia’s fate ahead of the start of Rio 2016 on August 5. “I think that this way we have balanced the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete,” IOC president Thomas Bach told reporters after the meeting.
“In this way we are protecting clean athletes because of the high criteria we set. This may not please everybody, but the result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all clean athletes around the world.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and 14 national anti-doping bodies last week recommended that the IOC and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) should consider banning all Russian athletes entered for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games following the publication of the McLaren Investigation Report.
The damning independent report produced by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren revealed evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and details of a system that included widespread cheating and manipulation of tests by athletes and officials as far back as 2011. It found that state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015.
Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned from Rio 2016 after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week decided to uphold the stance taken by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The CAS issued its decisions in the arbitrations between the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), a group of 68 Russian athletes and the IAAF. The CAS dismissed both the request for arbitration filed by the ROC and the claimant athletes, and the appeal filed by 67 of the same athletes against the IAAF decision to consider them as ineligible for the Olympic Games in Rio.
ROC president Alexander Zhukov presented his case to the IOC board at the beginning of Sunday’s meeting, with the IOC stating he promised full cooperation with investigations and guaranteed “a complete and comprehensive restructuring of the Russian anti-doping system.”
While deciding against an outright ban, the IOC said it will impose tough eligibility conditions, including preventing any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping from competing in Rio. The IOC said it would only accept entry from Russian athletes who meet certain conditions set out for the 28 IFs to apply.
The IOC said federations “should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete's anti-doping record, taking in account only reliable adequate international tests … in order to ensure a level playing field.” The IOC requested federations examine the information and names of athletes and sports implicated in the McLaren report. It said any implicated should not be allowed into the Games.
The IOC added that federations would have to apply their own rules if they want to follow the IAAF’s lead and ban an entire Russian team. In a statement on Sunday, IAAF president Sebastian Coe said that having gone through the process, the IAAF has offered its assistance to the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and other IFs.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) yesterday became the first IF to comment on the matter, stating it has cleared the seven Russian players nominated for Rio. The ITF said the players have been subject to a rigorous anti-doping programme outside Russia, which it considers sufficient to meet IOC requirements.
The IOC said Russian entries must be examined and upheld by an expert from CAS, adding that those who eventually compete will be subjected to a “rigorous additional out-of-competition testing program.”
The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-metre runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at Rio 2016. Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, a former Russian anti-doping agency official, provided evidence for the Wada report that led to Russia’s suspension from international athletics in November.
However, the IOC said Stepanova did not meet its criteria because she had previously committed doping violations and did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the Games. Commenting on Sunday’s IOC decision, Zhukov confirmed that only one Russian track and field athlete – long jumper Darya Klishina – will take part in Rio 2016.
The IAAF Doping Review Board this month agreed that the 25-year-old, who finished 10th in the long jump at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, met the exceptional eligibility criteria to compete in international competition as a neutral athlete. Zhukov added to Russian broadcaster Rossiya-24: “As far as I know, today’s decision was passed unanimously. Although many, including Wada, demanded Russia be banned from the Olympic Games. Pressure in the Western media was very strong but the IOC executive board has finally taken a balanced decision, I think.”
The IOC’s decision comes with Russia facing a possible ban from the Rio Paralympic Games. Citing evidence in McLaren's report of doping among Russian Paralympic athletes, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on Friday evening that it will decide in the week commencing August 1 whether to exclude the country from the September 7-18 event.
Sir Philip Craven, IPC president, said: “The additional information we have been provided with by Richard McLaren includes the names of the para athletes associated with the 35 ‘disappearing positive samples’ from the Moscow laboratory highlighted in the report. We are also urgently following up on Mr. McLaren’s recommendation for 19 samples from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games to be sent for further analysis, having been identified as part of the sample swapping regime in place during the Games.
“With regard to NPC Russia, we have started proceedings to consider the suspension of their membership of the IPC. This decision was not taken lightly, but after fully evaluating the ‘Independent Person Report’ and the additional information we have received, the IPC believes that the current environment in Russian sport – which stems from the highest levels – is such that NPC Russia appears unable to fulfil its IPC membership obligations in full.”